Cedar Springs, Michigan
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Inside the museums infinity goes up on trial.
Voices echo, "This is what salvation must be like after a while."
The thing about eternity, of course, is that it's so damned long. Waking up for another day in the sweet sunshine of heaven, or the wretched darkness of hell. Either way, it's all about the waiting. Will tomorrow be different? How anyone could have devised eternity as a reward for good behavior is beyond me. Sure, being endlessly boiled in oil, eaten by teeth of flame, prodded by pitchforks, sliced and diced, those things do sound more than a bit painful and dreary. But who ever seriously considers the long-term effects of the flip side? Would the warmth of the presence of God be any less tedious after the first million years or so? How much unremitting bliss can anyone really stand? Lucifer got restless.
No, the punishment isn't the pain and torture so much as it is the endlessness of it all. Give us any kind of situation and we can adjust to it after awhile. We are adaptive animals. But tell us it's never going to change and that's downright depressing. In fact, I think a pretty good definition of depression, as it afflicts the human brain, is that it's the feeling that things aren't good, and that they won't get any better. It's Macbeth saying "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow." It's Sisyphus saying "Same boulder, different day." That, and the feeling that things could always get worse. Michael Corleone in his kitchen, pulling his clenched fists to himself with "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in." Prometheus lying there thinking "Oh Christ, here comes that eagle again."
Notice that they don't really try to sell you heaven so much as to scare you with hell. Why? Because it's fascinating. The paintings of Hieronymous Bosch, the thundering sermons of Jonathan Edwards. Dante's Inferno is a lot more interesting and compelling than his heaven. Only scholars read the Paradiso. Most of us can't relate, but more importantly, to embrace it is to come face to face with its sheer cleanliness and tedium. They must really appreciate the occasional newcomer up there. Notice that all the jokes about heaven involve St. Peter and the entry process, your last chance to really be yourself before embarking on that endless acid trip and becoming one with the divine.
Where is all this coming from?
Readers don't generally want this aimless introspective shit. They follow the blog because I'm doing something they're not doing--walking through the country. I offer something a bit different in the midst of what they perceive as the comparative sameness of their lives. Maybe they've wondered what it would be like to do it themselves, in some form or other. For some it's like a slower version of reality television. Can he do it? Will something terrible happen? For others it may be a reflection of their fantasies. For still others an attenuated travelogue. But the important and universal thing is that they're not doing it--someone else is. This I understand perfectly. Who wants to read about his own life, after all, when he's living it in such excruciating detail?
It is understood that right now I am on hiatus, like a television program. People accept this, and turn to other channels. They just wait. It's all about the walk. I thought I might get some more responses to the riddle of the Refuseniks, which I regard as an interesting walk-related phenomenon. But so far the few women I've heard from simply aver that they don't do it. I wish to emphasize that I do not consider it a right versus wrong thing, just a difference I can't explain. It's not like men who don't put down the toilet seat. That's purely a matter of selfishness and/or bad breeding. This is something else.
I ask for nothing from readers, however. Our unwritten contract requires that I begin walking, which I expect to do next Wednesday or Thursday. Until then, enjoy the reruns.